I’ve read about many of the chemicals in laundry detergents and fabric softeners and am concerned about their health implications, as many contain formaldehyde, artificial fragrances and other toxins that can cause illnesses from central nervous system disorders to dermatitis. It’s also widely accepted that between 50%, to 70% of life cycle carbon emissions of cleaning products occur during the use phase, for example when using a washing machine, and the major contributors to carbon emissions are often related to energy consumption.
Then I saw an article about a student at the University of Alberta who wore the same pair of skin-tight jeans for 15 months without washing them (that’s over 200 wears) before having his jeans tested by his textile professor to see what bacteria could be discovered, I began to wonder do we really need to wash our clothes so often? The experiment ended up serving a rather interesting, purpose, as surprisingly, the jeans were remarkably clean.
Josh Le of the University of Alberta was not trying to reduce his carbon footprint; his excuse for not doing his laundry was that he wanted to break in the raw denim so the fabric would hug the contours of his body, leaving distinct wear lines and creases.
At the conclusion of the experiment Le washed his jeans in a washing machine, after which he wore the jeans another two weeks and then re-tested them. The results surprised Le and Human Ecology professor Rachel McQueen who said what was most surprising was that the jeans after they were re-washed and re-tested were very similar.
McQueen said the highest recordings of bacteria were found in the crotch of the jeans where between 8,500 and 10,000 bacterial units per square centimetre were found, with lower readings in the back and front of the jeans. In all, there were five kinds of skin bacteria in the jeans, and there were no traces of dangerous E. coli. McQueen said of the bacteria count of the freshly washed pair, compared to the prewashing levels. “I expected they would still be much lower than after 15 months.”
Controlling odour was a different concern, Le said, admitting the jeans began to smell after a few months. Josh decided to put his smelly jeans in the freezer for a few hours after which they became odourless. “I triple-bagged them and put them in the freezer,” he said.
So, maybe we don’t need to wash our clothes so often after all!!!!
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Photo: John Ulan/Canadian Press